Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A Stop at the Pavilion

Dear All,

pardon my recent inactivity in my blog due to the whole string of assignment deadlines to meet and the increased addiction to computer games to celebrate the dawn of the holidays :) Just began on my last assignment (PCG 511) by hiking at MacRitchie after the heavy downpour yesterday, and realised that I did not like hiking as much as compared to my JC times. Wonder what the overdose of sedentary lifestyle of siting in front of the computer has done to me?
Will try to hand in this last assignment by Friday which I am confident of fiting it into the pigeon hole. This will truly mark the end of the first semester in NIE and on my way to rest and recuperate in terms of enjoying the holidays and reviving the habit of sleeping and waking up late. Yah, what a unhealthy lifestyle, it seems but laziness prevails, I guess. Just to have a nice closure, here is my farming game template for the farmers found under the links section.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Paving the road...

Ibrahim's lesson is very fun and the group work he assigned to the class today has great potential for creativity and learning. Great effort by him in preparing those papers. Personally, I like it a lot.

Some points to enhance that useful tool(I would call it simulation):
1. Overall direction of the project is important so that students will know ultimately what they want to achieve. With that, then they would really plan where to put the buildings rather than doing so haphazardly.

2. Thought the idea of giving students different landscapes was quite good.

3. Lay down the rules for eg, no stacking, all buildings be placed within the space allocated. Once a building is placed, its position cannot be changed.

4. The project could be divided into stages of progression. For example, a certain amount of houses, roads, factories etc could be given at each stage and then students would place them on the map. Give them guiding questions so as to lead them into why they have such a layout. These questions can be part of a worksheet. At each subsequent stage, a different coloured or numbered types of building could be given to them so that this will help us to see the 'evolution' of the settlement. In addition, the teacher may relax a rule at each stage, for eg improvement in technology allows high rise flats or land reclamation, then students would adjust their layout accordingly. With these stages, I believe the learning points can be elicited more explicitly.

5. Ultimately, students can be probed that if there is a single change they want to do to the finalised layout what would that be?

6. Alternatively, different groups can receive different amounts of each type of building/structures so that the settlement layout would change accordingly. The buildings do not need to be necessarily the same to each group. The project could be given after they have some knowledge of landuse and settlement. Though that such a tool would be greatly underutilised if used only as an 'appetitiser'.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A well trodden path...

First of all, I hope Kelvin do not mind my stream of verbal bombardments in term of questions with regards to population geography and hope it does not sound too aggressive. It is purely for intellectual discussion, haha.

So far, this is the second secondary 4 express mock class that I have experienced (apart from mine and incidentally on population geography as well) in Kelvin's lesson under our module, which explained why I am more proactive into learning issues.I have been tutoring secondary geography for five years plus already (and YES! gepgraphy can be tutored) and most of the time, I tutored on interpreting and answering questions and explaining concepts, not simply content, studying methods etc. AndI have quite a wide array of students ranging from Clementi Town to Raffles Institution and from secondary 1 to 4 though not all concurrently.

What I have discovered from the upper secondary students is that every often either they misunderstood what the teacher has taught (wrong interpretation) or they simply 'anyhow' expressed their answers (wrong paraphrasing). This actually explained why I kept asking Kelvin certain related questions and quite deliberately give the opposite side of so-called conventional answers. For example, when Kelvin mentioned about linking the relationship about family planning and government policies, some students may interpret it as government policies can always affect family planning. This can simply be tested by giving the student such a question: Should government implement birth control policies? And the answer is a resounding yes with no mentioning of problems, success rate etc. Other grey areas include linkages about standard of living, labour shortages. If only, I had my students' scripts, then I could find better illustrations. I found this a very major problem for students in humanities. So I was basically acting as a student (with a teacher hat) in the mock class trying to find out how Kelvin would tackle these two problems.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Back on track...

Back to NIE again after a week of school experience, felt like new to NIE.

This week's micro teachings were pretty different. On Monday, there was role playing in the form of students acting out a script while on Tuesday, there is mainly teacher centred learning with some group work. In a way, they are refreshing.

I am still waiting for a full teacher centred lesson but I guess none of my peers would be doing so. All of us somehow always have group work for students to do but I guess that is easier to spend the time during micro-teaching and is in line with the shift towards collaborative learning. However, I believed that in real schools and classrooms, there are still many occasions where the teaching method is going to be teacher centred. But I guess that is so traditional and perhaps boring that none of my peers is going to do it as part of their micro-teaching. Pearl's lesson is the closest to a full teacher centred learning style except for the group worksheet. I was internally hoping for a full teacher centred lesson but it did not turn out that way. Would really like to observe what would possibly happen since that is highly likely in the real world. I mean the teacher is not always going to have group work in a class of 30 students and for efficiency and practical purposes, teacher centred learning is going to happen with at most some class participation but not necessarily group work.

Frankly speaking, perhaps due to the magic number of 12 students in the class, I am getting quite sick of the 3 groups of 4 students (I am guilty of it as well). It is like so predictable in every micro-teaching. Wonder what are possible ways to involve groupworks with 12 students if student centred learning is used.

Lastly, kudos to all who always managed to think of problems to 'shock' the 'teachers' and even more so to the 'teachers' who often managed to resolve the problems in ingenius ways.

End of Detour

Day 5
Nothing much happened on Friday, however in the course of trying to do my assignment on Information Technology usage in ACJC, I learnt a lot of stuff from 2 teachers.

First, there is a geography teacher whom I had observed a few of his classes. He is really helpful and showed me the Geographic Information System that he had created for a few of the topics such as plate tectonics and population geography. Next, I had an interview with the IT HOD to know about how ACJA incorporate IT in classrooms, some problems and solutions they had with respect to integration IT in learning in the college.

Learned quite a number of useful things in this slight detour!

Thursday, September 16, 2004


Day 3,
yeah, got to experience economic tutorials which are more interesting since you actually got to observe more classroom management issues. I did not notice why my cooperating teacher was moving around in the classroom until I realised that she always walk to the opposite end of the students who are asked to present in order to hear if the students spoke loudly enough for the whole class to hear. Also, I noticed that she seldom spoon-fed, rather she prompted for answers

As for geography, it was another lecture. However, it was held in a classroom setting with about 10+ students so it was pretty much like a tutorial setting. The teacher related a lot of things taught in the class to past lectures and concepts learnt and most of the time, he asked for the answers.

Learning point: There is more and more student participation in class, rather than the traditional one way teacher-to-students talk.

Day 4,
my cooperating teacher is very helpful, asking me what I have learnt, felt and any feedback I had. I have visited all the 3 economic classes she taught and noticed the different styles that she conducted in classes even though the topics covered were the same ie going through the MCQs in the same topic or same essay question. More than that, she pointed out that she gave different treatment she gave to different classes with different learning abilities as well as from different streams.

For example, she is more strict with a class where their economic knowledge is not as good by demanding that all the students hand in their essay outlines and meted out punishments for those who did not hand in. As for the academically better class, she does not made essay outlines mandatory because the knowledge were all in their heads and they could present their stuffs in class. (I agreed with that because it would be a waste of time to ask the students to do that, no need to add stress to students). Another interesting she said was she did not scold Arts students directly because they are more emotional so instead she used emotions to win them over eg I am so upset that you did not do your homework. But for the Science students, she would ask them to stand in the class and present parts of the answers so that they can sit down and mentioned that it is because the Science students would not take the scoldings to heart but would neither respond to the teacher's emotions, contrary to the Arts students.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

A Slight Detour...

1 week school experience
Day 1:
did not start well at all, I was late for the appointed time though I made it to the mornin g assembly on time because the bus that came past are all full, was quite angry at SMRTfor sending two single decker buses that just went passed... whoosh. Shouldn't they be using double decker buses at peak hours knowing that there are like 5 schools within that vicinity ie 1km radius?

Concidentally, all the lessons I am observing on Monday are geography lectures, so in a way not very interesting since I am just sitting there observing the lecture, looking forward to the tutorials instead. For the JC2, it was revision and the JC1 are doing coast. The content is overwhelming for 'A' level geography which actually quite deterred ,e from teaching geography in JC level, much prefer the secondary level.

Day 2:
much better, took a different bus via a different route and since it was a double decker, of course I reached the school early. After all, the journey was like ten minutes, slightly longer than my trip to NUS, wow. Started off with a guest lecture on an economic topic-privatisation, and then went to observe a project work class which is great in giving me an idea of what the project work as a JC subject is all about. The fun starts when I began to interact with some groups while the teacher interacts with the other groups. That was the only time when the times flies and I found myself staying back volunteerily to explain a bit further even though the last period has ended, so was the teacher. I simply ignored the bell! So what I did was to offer them advice especially on organisation and structure. The students' appendices and citations were done wrongly and most of the groups exceed the word limit, so I just gave them some ideas on how to improve on it and emphasise the importance of it especially in research in higher learning eg university.

Tomorrow should be nice. 1. It is a short day. 2. There are economics and geography tutorials for observation. Sadly, I would have to wait till Friday for an economics lecture.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Progress in the journey...

This week's micro-teaching provides a lot of guiding points and I think the most relevant for me is compromising. When do teachers compromise, how much to compromise and is it effective?

First, I saw it in Sukhairan's class where he did not impose certain punishment that he had given out. While initially, I thought that may undermine his authority in the future but from what Felicia had said, this is a good strategy to appease students and since Sukhairan had told the students to see him after class, I think that would be the time where he establishes his authority fully.

Next, in Run Er's class, she ignore certain disturbances in the class and in forever in that goody mood which actually dampen the mood of those 'trouble-makers' by refusing to be their audience. In this sense, she compromise the slight disturbances for a longer duration of peace and she would not waste time on disciplining the class. However, I wonder if it the students may actually take the chance to escalate into something more serious especially for attention seekers.

It is really tough to decide on this issue because it is hard to decipher if the involved students will see compromise as a weakness for further exploitation or as a respect for individuals.